Screen print: 45cm x 60cm, edition of 200, printed on 300gsm Somerset soft white 100% cotton paper, all prints signed and numbered, release price: £165
Giclee print: 30cm x 40cm, edition of 200, printed on 305gsm Canson Aquarelle Rag textured archival art paper, all prints signs and numbered, price: £82
I’ve been listening to a lot of old texts from various traditions whilst working lately, thanks to Buddhist nun Samaneri Jayasara’s treasure trove of a YouTube channel. Below is the text of the Mahamudra teaching ‘Tilopa's Song to Naropa’ (available as audio here) that has been played many a time round these parts lately.
'Ground' is based around the figure from an 1880s steel engraving by J. Rogers of the painting ‘Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane’ by Carlo Dolci (1600s).
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Tilopa's Song to Naropa (from Mother of the Buddhas by Lex Hixon)
Mahamudra, the royal way, is free from every word and sacred symbol. For you alone, beloved Naropa, this wonderful song springs forth from Tilopa as spontaneous friendship that never ends. The completely open nature of all dimensions and events is a rainbow always occurring yet never grasped. The way of Mahamudra creates no closure. No strenuous mental effort can encounter this wide open way. The effortless freedom of awareness moves naturally along it.
As space is always freshly appearing and never filled, so the mind is without limits and ever aware. Gazing with sheer awareness into sheer awareness, habitual, abstract structures melt into the fruitful springtime of Buddhahood.
White clouds that drift through blue sky, changing shape constantly, have no root, no foundation, no dwelling; nor do changing patterns of thought that float through the sky of mind. When the formless expanse of awareness comes clearly into view, obsession with thought forms ceases easily and naturally.
As within the openness of universal space shapes and colors are spontaneously forming, although space has no color or form, so within the expanse of awareness realms, relations and values are arising, although awareness possesses no positive or negative characteristics.
As the darkness of night, even were it to last a thousand years, could not conceal the rising sun, so countless ages of conflict and suffering cannot conceal the innate radiance of Mind.
Although philosophers explain the transparent openness of appearances as empty of permanent characteristics and completely indeterminable, this universal indeterminacy can itself never be determined.
Although sages report the nature of awareness to be luminosity, this limitless radiance cannot be contained within any language or sacramental system. Although the very essence of Mind is to be void of either subjects or objects, it tenderly embraces all life within its womb.
To realize this inexpressible truth, do not manipulate mind or body but simply open into transparency with relaxed, natural grace intellect at ease in silence, limbs at rest in stillness like hollow bamboos. Neither breathing in nor breathing out with the breath of habitual thinking, allow the mind to be at peace in brilliant wakefulness.
This is the royal wealth of Mahamudra, no common coin of any realm. Beloved Naropa, this treasure of Buddhahood belongs to you and to all beings.
Obsessive use of meditative disciplines or perennial study of scripture and philosophy will never bring forth this wonderful realization, this truth which is natural to awareness, because the mind that desperately desires to reach another realm or level of experience inadvertently ignores the basic light that constitutes all experience.
The one who fabricates any division in consciousness betrays the friendship of Mahamudra. Cease all activity that separates, abandon even the desire to be free from desires and allow the thinking process to rise and fall smoothly as waves on a shoreless ocean.
The one who never dwells in abstraction and whose only principle is never to divide or separate upholds the trust of Mahamudra. The one who abandons craving for authority and definition, and never becomes one-sided in argument or understanding, alone perceives the authentic meaning hidden in the ancient scriptures.
In the blissful embrace of Mahamudra, negative viewpoints and their instincts are burned without remainder, like camphor. Through the open door of Mahamudra, the deluded state of self-imprisonment is easily left behind forever. Mahamudra is the torch of supreme liberty shining forth through all conscious beings.
Those beings constituted by awareness who try to ignore, reject or grasp awareness inflict sorrow and confusion upon themselves like those who are insane.
To be awakened from this madness, cultivate the gracious friendship of a sublime sage of Mahamudra, who may appear to the world as mad. When the limited mind enters blessed companionship with limitless Mind, indescribable freedom dawns.
Selfish or limited motivations create the illusory sense of imprisonment and scatter seeds of further delusion. Even genuine religious teaching can generate narrowness of vision. Trust only the approach that is utterly vast and profound.
The noble way of Mahamudra never engages in the drama of imprisonment and release. The sage of Mahamudra has absolutely no distractions, because no war against distractions has ever been declared. This nobility and gentleness alone, this nonviolence of thought and action , is the traceless path of all Buddhas. To walk this all-embracing way is the bliss of Buddhahood.
Phenomena on every plane of being are constantly arising and disappearing. Thus they are forever fresh, always new and inexhaustible. Like dreams without solid substance, they can never become rigid or binding. The universe exists in a deep, elusive way that can never be grasped or frozen. Why feel obsessive desire or hatred for it, thereby creating illusory bonds?
Renounce arbitrary, habitual views. Go forth courageously to meditate in the real mountain wilderness, the wide open Mahamudra. Transcend boundaries of kinship by embracing all living beings as one family of consciousness. Remain without any compulsion in the landscape of natural freedom: spontaneous, generous, joyful. When you receive the crown of Mahamudra, all sense of rank or attainment will quietly disappear.
Cut the root of the vine that chokes the tree, and its clinging tendrils wither away entirely. Sever the conventionally grasping mind, and all bondage and desperation dissolve.
The illumination from an oil lamp lights the room instantly, even if it has been dark for aeons. Mind is boundless radiance. How can the slightest darkness remain in the room of daily perception? But one who clings to mental processes cannot awaken to the radiance of Mind.
Strenuously seeking truth by investigation and concentration, one will never appreciate the unthinkable simplicity and bliss that abide at the core. To uncover this fertile ground, cut through the roots of complexity with the sharp gaze of naked awareness, remaining entirely at peace, transparent and content. You need not expend great effort nor store up extensive spirtual power. Remain in the flow of sheer awareness. Mahamudra neither accepts nor rejects any current of energy, internal or external.
Since the ground consciousness is never born into any realm of being, nothing can add to or subtract from it. Nothing can obstruct or stain it. When awareness rests here, the appearance of division and conflict disappears into original reality. The twin emotions of anxiety and arrogance vanish into the void from which they came.
Supreme knowing knows no separate subject or object. Supreme action acts resourcefully without any array of instruments. Supreme attainment attains the goal without past, future or present.
The dedicated practitioner experiences the spiritual way as a turbulent mountain stream, tumbling dangerously among boulders. When maturity is reached, the river flows smoothly and patiently with the powerful sweep of the Ganges. Emptying into the ocean of Mahamudra, the water becomes ever-expanding light that pours into great Clear Light without direction, destination, division, distinction or description.